Australian Corporate Accountability Network Launches
Wednesday, 1st November 2017 at 7:55 am
A group of civil society organisations, academics and individuals working to promote accountability and respect for human rights by Australian businesses, has launched the Australian Corporate Accountability Network.
The ACAN network, funded by an RMIT University grant as part of the university’s commitment to fostering responsible business, had its official launch in Melbourne last week.
Keren Adams, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, which is supporting the network’s establishment, told Pro Bono News the aim was to coordinate and facilitate greater communication between NGOs working in the space and also academics.
“There is a lot of interesting work going on with academics but there’s not much opportunity for a crossover between the civil society worlds and the academic worlds,” Adams said.
“We hope that this network will help to foster collaboration and give rise to some joint projects in the corporate accountability space.”
ACAN has set up a steering board including representatives from the Human Rights Law Centre, the ACTU, RMIT University and the Australiasian Centre for Corporate Accountability.
“We are the current people driving it forward but it has over 70 members now and we will be trying to organise people to meet bi-annually and then people can touch base by phone or email about particular issues as they arise,” Adams said.
“The organisations involved are using some of their general funding to put this together but we are very fortunate that RMIT has given us some specific funding which has enabled things like our bi-annual meetings and some specific project work by the group.”
The aims of the organisation include:
- improving knowledge and transparency surrounding the human rights impacts of Australian business activities, including economic and environmental impacts where such impacts interfere with enjoyment of human rights by individuals and communities;
- increasing accountability by Australian businesses for their impacts on communities, individuals and environments;
- improving access to effective redress in Australia by individuals and communities whose rights are affected by Australian business operations;
- integrating responsibility for human rights into business decision-making, structures and practices including throughout corporate families and supply chains; and
- reforms to Australian laws and policies that promote business transparency, accountability, responsibility and remedy.
“I think that companies who may be doing the wrong thing should sit up and take notice of the work we are doing. But I think there are a lot of people within the business community in Australia who are also very supportive of work in this space,” Adams said.
“I have just been on government multi-stakeholder advisory group which had a lot of people from business and civil society and academia on it and that group recommended that the government develop a national action plan on business and human rights.
“I think businesses are actually also wanting greater direction and guidance from government in this space so I hope that as well as holding to account those companies that do the wrong thing we will be able to work very collaboratively with a lot of companies who are trying to do the right thing in that space.”
Adams said in terms of major issues, detention centres were “a very clear area where there is abuse and little accountability”.
“Detention has been where we have seen the most serious abuses, without a doubt, and the ‘extractive’ industry… these are the two areas in which Australia has a very poor record. These are the two areas where Australia is perceived internationally [as having] a major problem,” she said.
“But there are a whole range of other areas including Australian clothing companies being caught up in scandals around their supply chain.”